A credible portrait of coupledom imperiled by serious in-law stress, “Almost Perfect” starts out a romantic comedy, then gradually wends its way toward a more serious treatment of family dysfunction. Easily digested even at its heftiest, Bertha Bay-Sa Pan’s smartly turned sophomore feature could hazard limited theatrical exposure, but seems best suited for home-format sales.Vanessa (Kelly Hu) works for the nonprofit division of the company once run by her father, an unhappily retired shipping magnate. But on all fronts she seems to be the family’s support beam — and as such, is expected to have no real life of her own, lest it interfere with tending to everyone else’s crises. Thus, she’s really not looking for a steady beau when she encounters old acquaintance Dwayne (Ivan Shaw), who confesses he’s had a crush on her for years, and is just too perfect a Mr. Right to pass up. Unfortunately, Vanessa’s immediate blood relations are far from perfect, and have no compunction about invading her space with their neverending problems. First, little bro Andy (Edison Chen) lands on her New York loft doorstep, on the run from a wife in his latest evasion of anything resembling responsibility. Sis Char (Christina Chang) is a high-maintenance fashion designer whose ongoing relationship history makes her an opinionated font of bad advice. Then, just as Dwayne moves in, so does her jaw-droppingly insensitive dad, Kai (Roger Rees), having been thrown out for serial offenses by her mom, Sanda (Tina Chen), a humorless academic who’s overweeningly self-absorbed. Leads are very appealing, their romantic chemistry nicely handled by Pan. If major supporting figures (particularly the parents) are sometimes one-dimensionally grating, they still benefit from the expertise of the first-rate cast. In a belated second feature superficially less ambitious than her decades-spanning 2002 debut, “Face,” the writer-helmer negotiates the transition from comedy to drama — as the notion that the protag’s family really could ruin her life grows less funny by degrees — with aplomb, while keeping things pleasantly middleweight overall. Though “Almost Perfect” features a primarily Asian-American cast and indie (but slick) production values, the general idea would work perfectly well as a moderately deeper mainstream vehicle for Jennifer Aniston. Just occasionally over-broad, its dramedy is thoughtful in a satisfying, non-edgy way.
A Slew Pictures presentation in association with Cineric. Produced by Derrick Tseng, Riva Marker, Bertha Bay-Sa Pan. Executive producers, Jim Chu, Eric Nyari, Balazs Nyari. Directed, written by Bertha Bay-Sa Pan.
Camera (color, HD), Sam Chase; editor, Sheri Bylander; music, Jeff Martin; music supervisor, Colby Trane; production designer, Wing Lee; art director, Cherie Kroll; set decorator, Laura Hyman; costume designer, Jenny Gering; sound (Dolby SR), Jack Huston; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, Steve Borne; assistant director, Scott Lazar; casting, Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee. Reviewed at San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival (competing), March 15, 2011. Running time: 106 MIN.
Kelly Hu, Ivan Shaw, Tina Chen, Christina Chang, Edison Chen, Roger Rees, Natalie Gold, Lisa Werlinder, Kristy Wu.